20 Apr 2020

Devil's Bride (Arūnas Žebriūnas, 1974)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼


During the 1960s and later in his career, Arūnas Žebriūnas created several films featuring children protagonists, including the adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's novella The Little Prince and a delightful B&W drama The Girl and the Echo. Devil's Bride marked his as well as his country's first foray into musicals, and is today considered one of the most successful offerings to Lithuanian cinema of the Soviet era. Based on Kazys Boruta's novel Whitehorn’s Windmill (Baltaragio malūnas) itself inspired by folk legends, the story speaks 'of the victory of love over the trickery of the Devil', as the official synopsis reveals.


After angels commit a sin against their Father (and replace their white robes with black suits and yellow dresses in the course of bacchanalia), they are expelled to Earth where they inhabit lakes. A mischievous devil, Pinčiukas (Gediminas Girdvainis), arrives to Baltaragis mill and makes a Faustian deal with its middle-aged owner (Vasyl Symchych). In exchange for his soul, the miller will marry a beautiful village girl, Marcelé, and have a daughter, Jurga (both portrayed by the same actress, Vaiva Mainelyte), who will have to become the bride of Pinčiukas once she comes of age...


But that is only the beginning of a unique pastoral rock opera that is infectiously jovial, sending strong hippie vibes and boasting the licentious direction, handsome cinematography (Algimantas Mockus) and deliberately over-the-top histrionics, especially by Girdvainis who seems to have a whale of a time fooling around in his impish role. Add to that a mixture of the hallucinatory music so typical of the 1970s and the screenplay with rather whimsical inner logic and entirely sung dialogues, and you have yourselves a wild carriage ride across the green pastures and thick forests of the authentically rustic setting. It's a miracle this vibrant, high-spirited fairy tale, psychedelic at its core, hadn't been butchered or even banned by the strict censors behind the iron curtain, considering that it involves the shots of same sex kissing and caressing in the very prologue. Although influenced by Russian fantasy films of the period, it stands out for its open-mindedness and more dynamic camera work.

No comments:

Post a comment